Microsoft's flagship operating system has long supported digital inking, but the upcoming Windows 10 Anniversary Update promises to turn the stylus into a more integral part of the Windows experience.
During the opening keynote at Microsoft's Build developer conference in San Francisco, the software giant announced Windows Ink that extends pen support to more applications and tasks. "We're going to help you, with Windows Ink, create and collaborate better," said Bryan Roper, product manager, Windows and Devices group, during the opening keynote address yesterday.
Despite being surrounded by a wealth of devices that can capture information, many users still reach for pen and paper to jot down ideas or quickly scribble fleeting inspirations. During his onstage demonstration of Windows Ink, Roper noted that each year, 3M sells 50 billion sticky notes.
According to Microsoft's estimates, 70 percent of people spend more than an hour each day using a pen. The problem with paper-based productivity is that notes can get lost and be difficult to digitize and integrate the information into digital workflows.
"Our goal with Windows Ink is to really combine the naturalness and speed of pen and paper with the power of the PC," Roper said.
Clicking the stylus's button (where the eraser would be on a pencil) brings up the Ink Workspace, a Start menu of sorts that appears on the right side of the screen and displays three commonly used tasks, Sticky Notes, Sketchpad and Screen Sketch. It also shows recently used pen-enabled apps and a section with suggested apps that feature Windows Ink support and a link to more apps. Tapping the link takes users to a Windows Store page dedicated to apps with inking capabilities.
Beyond capturing scribbles, Windows Ink helps interpret them. As Roper demonstrated, the technology analyzed an on-screen, handwritten sticky note reminding him to "call mom tomorrow," setting the stage for a Cortana reminder.
The Sketchpad app acts as a digital whiteboard, complete with a virtual ruler for inking straight lines and sharing options. In the Maps app, users can draw a line between two locations to determine distance and use ink to get directions.
IT research analyst Jack Gold, of J. Gold Associates, cited Windows Ink as one of the highlights of the upcoming Windows 10 Anniversary Update due out this summer.
In a research note sent to eWEEK, he praised the "[fully] integrated inking capability and an SDK that allows frictionless use of the pen in apps, aided by Cortana and cognitive services to take inking to new levels of usefulness." He also noted that Microsoft included several "more hooks into Cortana to make integration of concierge services accessible by apps and make computer functions much more human-friendly."
In addition, Microsoft announced that it is working with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) on Windows Ink devices. The company has also partnered with Wacom to develop a "high quality writing instrument built for Windows Ink," which will hit store shelves this holiday season, Microsoft announced yesterday.